|Publication number||US8123613 B2|
|Application number||US 12/046,110|
|Publication date||Feb 28, 2012|
|Filing date||Mar 11, 2008|
|Priority date||Sep 30, 2002|
|Also published as||US8870641, US20080214295, US20120135802|
|Publication number||046110, 12046110, US 8123613 B2, US 8123613B2, US-B2-8123613, US8123613 B2, US8123613B2|
|Original Assignee||Stanley Dabrowski|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Patent Citations (33), Classifications (6), Legal Events (1)|
|External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet|
This application is a Continuation-in-Part of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/261,142, entitled “METHOD AND APPARATUS FOR INTEGRATED CUSTOMER TRACKING AND BROWSING,” By Stanley P. Dabrowski, filed Sep. 30, 2002, issued Mar. 11, 2008 as U.S. Pat. No. 7,341,516, which application is hereby incorporated by reference herein.
1. Field of the Invention
The present invention relates to systems and methods for monitoring and recording transactions, and in particular, to a system and method for tracking customer activity without need for an extensive interconnecting network.
2. Description of the Related Art
Recent years have seen a rapid expansion of the gaming industry. Much of the income derived from such games is collected at gaming devices like slot machines and video poker games.
To attract customers, larger goods and/or service providers (e.g. gaming establishments) implement “frequent player” programs in which players can obtain bonuses and other benefits each time they play machines in that particular establishment or its affiliates. Such “frequent player” or “loyalty” programs may also permit the goods/service provider to monitor customer activity. This permits the service/goods provider to customize the services and goods presented to each customer or group of customers so that each customer's needs are better met. In many instances, the customer agrees to permit the collection of such information in exchange for lower prices, a bonus program, or other incentives offered by the service/goods provider. In such circumstances, it is important to include some medium or means for keeping track of each customer's loyalty program.
One solution to this problem is to provide a network of interconnected computers or similar devices at the point of sale/service. Each device can collect information regarding the sale and provide that information to a central database, where the data can be stored and analyzed. The problem with this solution is that it requires a substantial investment in the infrastructure (the interconnected network) itself. This substantial investment is typically greater than can be provided by smaller goods/service providers.
Another problem with the use of a network of interconnected computers or similar devices at the point of sale/service is that such systems do not ordinarily permit the user to earn incentives at different establishments. For example, whatever device is used to keep track of one entity's incentive program is typically unusable in for another entity's incentive program. This forces the customer to carry a device for each establishment they patronize.
Typically, customers are not permitted to earn incentives at a first establishment by purchasing goods or services at another unrelated establishment. For example, if a customer is a member of the incentive program of a first casino, game play at a second casino cannot be used to earn incentives at the first casino. Also incentives earned at the first casino cannot be redeemed at the second casino. While it may not seem advantageous for the second casino to allow customers to redeem incentives earned at another commercially distinct casino, allowing the player to make such redemption encourages the customer to play at the second casino, and once they begin playing there, they are likely to remain.
What is needed is an inexpensive system and method for monitoring and recording gaming activity that eases data collection, reduces the risk of theft, does not negatively influence impulse gaming. What is also needed is a system for providing appropriate incentives, without need for an extensive (and expensive) infrastructure, and one that permits customers to earn and redeem incentives at commercially distinct casinos. The present invention satisfies these needs.
To address the requirements described above, the present invention discloses a method, apparatus, article of manufacture, and a memory structure for providing gaming incentives. The method comprising the steps of receiving a first transmission from a secure memory device in a terminal communicatively coupled to one of a plurality of first gaming devices of a first casino, collecting first information describing member-related gaming device activity of the one of the plurality of first gaming devices, securely transmitting the first information regarding the member-related gaming device activity to the memory device for storage in the secure memory, receiving a second transmission from the secure memory device in a second terminal communicatively coupled to one of a second plurality of gaming devices of a second casino commercially distinct from the first casino, enrolling the member of the first incentive program of the first casino in a second incentive program of the second casino, collecting second information describing member-related gaming device activity of the one of the second plurality of gaming devices of the second casino, and securely transmitting the second information regarding the member-related gaming device activity to the memory device for storage in the secure memory.
In another embodiment, the apparatus comprises means for receiving a first transmission from a secure memory device in a terminal communicatively coupled to one of a plurality of first gaming devices of a first casino, means for collecting first information describing member-related gaming device activity of the one of the plurality of first gaming devices, means for securely transmitting the first information regarding the member-related gaming device activity to the memory device for storage in the secure memory, means for receiving a second transmission from the secure memory device in a second terminal communicatively coupled to one of a second plurality of gaming devices of a second casino commercially distinct from the first casino, means for enrolling the member of the first incentive program of the first casino in a second incentive program of the second casino, means for collecting second information describing member-related gaming device activity of the one of the second plurality of gaming devices of the second casino, means for securely transmitting the second information regarding the member-related gaming device activity to the memory device for storage in the secure memory.
In one embodiment, the secure memory device is issued to a member of a first incentive program of the first casino, the memory device having a secure memory for storing and retrieving tamperproof customer incentive information and a customer-unique identifier, the terminal exchanges information between the secure memory device and the one of the plurality of gaming devices and the plurality of first gaming devices includes at least a subset of first gaming devices that are communicatively isolated from any entity communicatively connected with any of the other of the plurality of first gaming devices. Further, the second terminal exchanges information between the secure memory device and the one of the second plurality of gaming devices and the plurality of second gaming devices includes at least a subset of second gaming devices that are communicatively isolated from any entity communicatively connected with any of the other of the plurality of second gaming devices.
Referring now to the drawings in which like reference numbers represent corresponding parts throughout:
In the following description, reference is made to the accompanying drawings which form a part hereof, and which is shown, by way of illustration, several embodiments of the present invention. It is understood that other embodiments may be utilized and structural changes may be made without departing from the scope of the present invention.
The owner or operator of the service device network 100 may elect to provide an incentive program to attract more consumers. The incentive program provides the member a reward for consuming the goods or using the service devices 104. The reward may be provided simply to attract more consumers 114, or may be provided in exchange for personal information regarding the consumer 114 or the consumer's preferences and habits regarding the use/consumption of the goods/services offered by the service devices 104. In one embodiment the incentive program is implemented by use of loyalty cards or other devices 112 that identify the consumer 114. When the consumer 114 enters the device 112 into an interface 110, the consumer 114 is identified, and information regarding the use of the service device 104 by the consumer 114 can be transmitted to the central processor 102 for processing and storage in a database 108, which can be external or internal to the processor 102. The device 112, can be a read only device, such as an optical bar code or magnetic card, or may be a read/write device.
Unfortunately, the incentive programs based on the service device network 110 require that each of the service devices 104 be networked together. Such networks can be prohibitively expensive for smaller service device owner/operators.
Once the smartcard 112 is accepted, the SRW 210 can read and write data from the smartcard 112. The smartcard 112 and SRW 210 are each configured so that read and write operations are performed in a secure (non-hackable) way, and so that the contents of the smartcard 112 cannot be altered or duplicated without special authorization. The SRW 210 may also be capable of selecting different operational modes or reprogramming the smartcard 112.
The smartcard 112 is personal to the user 114 and contains the information required for the incentive program. In one embodiment, this information includes personal data about the member 114. In another embodiment (the opt-out embodiment described below), the smartcard 112 does not store personal data about the member 114.
Once connected to the service device 210, the smartcard extracts service device activity information. In the gaming establishment context, this service device activity information includes player input(s), gaming machine outcome(s). Input and outcomes can be recorded as singular events. For example, the service device activity can be described (and recorded) as a number of games played, a number of games played per week, a number of games played on particular days or at particular times, the number of wagers, the number of wagers within certain amount bins (e.g. $0.25, $1, or $5), number of particular outcomes (e.g. number of blackjacks, or royal flushes, or queens), combinations (e.g. number of hands with face cards and deuces, number of consecutive winning or non-winning hands). Further, the tracked outcomes can be customizable to the member 114. For example, the member 114 may select particular “lucky” combinations (personal bonus combinations) for bonus awards (e.g. number of hands with both deuces and queens), and the member's selection can be stored on the smartcard 112 thereby permitting the member 114 to earn bonuses for these result.
The foregoing information can be used to compute and store member bonuses, and to manage special member offers.
The memory device 112 may be a smartcard, a flash memory such as a USB flash drive, a secure memory such as a Secure Digital card, or an radio frequency identification (RFID) device. RFID devices may include passive devices, semi-passive devices, active devices, and extended capability devices. Passive devices have no internal power supply, but use the electrical current induced in its antenna by a nearby RF signal to power the device. The response of the passive device may be a simply ID number, but may include additional data read from the non-volatile memory. Passive RFID devices may have privacy enhancing functionality such as communication encryption and silent moding, which prevents the device from transmitting information unless the user authorizes the transmission. Active RFID devices include their own internal power source and may include processors and other circuits. Extended capability RFID devices include similar features.
Each of the terminals 210 includes a controller 314 and a read/write device 316. The controller 314 communicates with the smartcard via the read/write device 316. Communication between the terminal 210 and the service device 210 may be performed via an interface 318 which obtains status and other information from the service device 210.
In one embodiment, the memory device 112 is removably coupleable to the terminal 210. In another embodiment described below, the memory device 112 is a wireless device that can exchange information with the terminal without physical connection. Once in communication with the terminal 210 the memory device 112 and the terminal 210 can share information as required to implement the incentive program. The terminal 210 (e.g. SRW may include an internal memory 306 communicatively coupled to a SRW processor 304. The internal memory 306 may include RAM and/or ROM.
The terminal is communicatively (and may be physically) coupled to the service device 204. Although not necessary to practice the invention, the service device 204 typically includes a processor 312 and a memory 310 that is used to implement service device 204 functions.
The member 114 then issues 410 service device 204 commands via an appropriate service device user interface. This may include, for example, entering a monetary denomination (e.g. a $20 bill), and depressing buttons to select game play, including the number of credits to risk, and making additional selections regarding game play (e.g. in a draw poker game, which cards to retain). The service device 204 accepts 412 the commands, and provides 414 a command response. The terminal 210 processes and/or interprets 416 the command response from the service device 204 and provides the activity information, in processed or unprocessed form, to the memory device 112, where it is stored 418.
Some or all of the terminals 210 also may allow member 114 to read some or all of the information regarding earned bonuses, bonus detail (e.g. number of bonus points, how many jackpots or royal flushes), or bonus requirements stored on the smartcard 112.
The authentication process can be directed solely to processes that are required to authenticate the memory device 112, rather than the user (e.g., a case where possession of the card alone is sufficient). In this case, the member 114 accepts the risk of losing their memory device 112. Redemption devices may or may not be networked.
The member 114 then requests 510 the incentive. The terminal service device 204 (either directly, or through the I/O devices of the terminal 210) accepts 512 the request. The terminal 210 processes/interprets 513 the request. The terminal 210 transmits a message to the memory device 112 requesting incentive/bonus information stored in the memory 302 of the memory device 112. The memory device 112 retrieves 514 the information, and provides the information to the terminal 210. The terminal 210 then compares 515 the earned bonus/incentive information received from the memory device 112 with bonus/incentive requirements stored in the terminal 210 and/or the memory device 112 and/or the service device 204. If the comparison indicates a bonus/incentive award is appropriate, the terminal/memory device 210/112 provides 516 a command to the service device 204 to provide the incentive. The service device 204 accepts 518 the command, and provides 520 the bonus/incentive. The terminal 210 receives the directive to provide the incentive from the service device, and commands the memory device 112 to decrement 510 the earned bonus by the amount redeemed. The memory device 112 accepts this command, and decrements 524 the earned bonus by the required amount. If desired, the present invention can be implemented without decrementing the bonus counter (e.g. awarding incentives when bonus thresholds are passed and therefore, triggered).
The incentive is then received 526 by the member 114. Alternatively, the incentive command may cause an alarm or other indication that the member 114, should be provided with a bonus, and the bonus is provided to the user by appropriate personnel alerted by the alarm.
The memory device 112 may or may not keep historical data regarding redemption transactions and earned bonuses. When the member 114 redeems bonus points or interfaces with a networked machine, the history of activity/bonus awards stored in the smartcard 112 can be uploaded in the terminal 210. This information can be to offer the member 114 with additional player benefits or to update the bonus structure to a more or less favorable structure than currently stored in the card 112.
In one embodiment, special redemption stations can be used to collect bonus points (in addition to or in the alternative to the terminals 210 disclosed above). Such redemption stations can be networked and can include special functionality to permit the collection of data and the issuance of the incentive awards.
It is noted that the functions shown implemented in the memory device 112 and terminal 210 in
The foregoing can be implemented with 2 types of memory devices, an opt-in memory device, and a non-opt-in (or opt-out) memory device 112. The baseline (opt-out), card is anonymous, and offers the member 114 a different (and typically, less advantageous) bonus structure than does the opt-in memory device 112. The opt-in memory device 112 is provided to the user in exchange for the member 114 providing personal information their name, address, and other identifying information that may be useful to correlate with service device 204 use patterns. Such a card may provide increased benefits over the non-opt-in card (i.e. 2-cent bonus per dollar wagered versus a 1 cent per dollar wagered with the opt-put card). Further, either card may change the award as the amount of play (dollars wagered or games played) increases, or when the user plays (giving more bonus for off-peak hours). The opt-in card can also be updated from time to time, with additional information, permitting additional bonuses. For example, an opt-out card may provide 1 cent per dollar wagered, a standard opt-in card may provide 2 cents per dollar wagered, but based on how much the opt-in card is used, the rate of award may be increased as the member plays more. This is made possible because the memory device processor can include programs which allow changes in program execution, permitting adaptable bonus awards.
The foregoing invention can also be used with a networked service device incentive system. In this embodiment (illustrated in
One advantage in the foregoing system (with non-networked service devices) is that it permits the customers/members to determine for themselves when and if they would like to trade information regarding gaming activity (and/or personal information) for bonus incentives. For example, a system can be devised in which none of the service devices are networked or otherwise coupled to a central computer or database, and which redemption of bonus points takes place on clearly identified and networked redemption terminals. The customer can then use the smartcard 112 in the ordinary way, secure in the knowledge that gaming activity or personal information will not (indeed, cannot) be shared. However, when the user elects to redeem earned bonus points, the user presents the card to a conspicuously identified networked machine, the information on the card (including game play and optionally, the user's personal information) can be collected. If the user does elects not to collect the bonus, the gaming activity or personal information is never revealed, but remains stored on the smartcard. The customer is therefore assured that activity and/or personal information stored in the smartcard will not be read until the customer makes the decision as to whether and when they would like to trade personal information for the incentive program.
In yet another embodiment of the invention, the member 114 does not have to make an immediate decision regarding whether to become an opted-in member. In this embodiment, the member 114 accepts an opted-out card, and can use the card as described above to collect bonus points. When the user attempts to redeem the bonus points for the incentive award, the member 114 is offered the opportunity to provide personal information in exchange for an enhanced bonus award.
As described above, the memory device 112 may comprise a smartcard, a USB-based flash memory, a wireless device, or any portable means to store information. The memory device 112 is issued to a person that is a member of a first incentive program offered by a first casino, typically in exchange for the member's personal information and the right to collect information regarding game play.
In one embodiment, the memory device 112 comprises a device capable of wirelessly transmitting and receiving information from other devices. One example of such a device is an infrared or optical transceiver similar to that of a remote control. One example of such a device is a radio frequency identification (RFID) device. With wireless devices, the terminal 210 or service device 204 may sense the approach of the memory device 112, and in response, present a display recognizing the member and inviting the member to use the service device 204. The member 114 may elect to do so by selecting appropriate commands on the service device 204 or the terminal 210.
In block 604, the terminal 210 receives the first transmission, which may include simply the customer unique identifier. The terminal 210 is communicatively coupled to one of a plurality of service devices 204 in a first casino.
Using authentication information received from the memory device 112, the terminal 210 (or service device 204) can authenticate the memory device before proceeding further, as shown in block 606. The result of the authentication process can be displayed on a display of the service device 204 (e.g. the display of a video gaming device).
Thereafter, the member 114 can issued device commands such as game play commands that are accepted by a service device 204 in a first casino. This is illustrated in blocks 610 and 612. The service device provides a command response (e.g. game play) as shown in block 614. The terminal 210 collects and transmits first information describing the member's gaming activity, as shown in block 616. That information is transmitted to the memory device 112, as shown in bock 618. As described above, the information may be transmitted from the terminal to the memory device 112 as it is available, may be stored in the terminal 210 an periodically transmitted to the memory device 112, or may be transmitted to the memory device when the member 114 has completed game play (for example, by providing a cashout command).
Once the member 114 has cashed out, they may deactivate the memory device 112. In embodiments wherein the memory device 112 is in the form of a smartcard or USB flash memory, this may be accomplished by removing the memory device 112 from the terminal 210. In embodiments wherein the memory device 112 communicates wirelessly with the terminal 210 (e.g. an RFID device), the user may provide a command to end the session or simply walk away until they are out of range with the terminal 210. At this point, the member may approach another service device 204 and repeat the same operations in the first casino. However, the member 114 may leave the premises of the first casino and enter a second casino that is commercially distinct from the first casino.
In this context, “commercially distinct” refers to entities that are operate independently from one another as peers. Typically, although not necessarily, such casinos are owned by separate entities.
For example, currently, Fitzgeralds Casino in Las Vegas is owned by one individual, while the Four Queens casino is owned by a different individual. Fitzgeralds and the Four Queens are operated completely independently from one another, and are therefore commercially distinct with respect to incentive programs. If Fitzgeralds and the Four Queens were to enter an agreement sharing the same incentive program, they would still be commercially distinct, because the shared incentive program exists only by virtue of an agreement between two peers . . . entities that do not control each other. Nor was the incentive program mandated by a third party that controls both entities.
Further, Caesar's Palace, the Imperial Palace, Paris Las Vegas, and Ballys are all currently controlled by Harrah's Entertainment. If Harrah's Entertainment were to institute an single incentive program valid for play at Caesar's Palace and Paris Las Vegas, Caesar's Palace and Paris Las Vegas would not be commercially distinct casinos in the context of the establishment of incentive programs because the program was mandated by a third party that controls both entities. If, however, Caesar's Palace and Paris Las Vegas were independently operated and entered into a separate agreement to share an incentive program as peers (not by mandate from the owner Harrah's Entertainment, they would be “commercially distinct.”
In blocks 705 and 706, the memory device is optionally authenticated by the transmission, reception, and processing of authentication information.
If the member 114 of the first incentive program is also a member of a second incentive program offered at the second casino, processing moves to block 718, and the member 114 begins game play using the service device 204. As illustrated in
If the member 114 is not a member of the second incentive program offered at the second casino the service device, the service device 204 may display an offer to join the incentive program of the second casino, as shown in block 708. If the member 114 accepts the enrollment offer, the service device 203 transmits a message to the terminal 210 to command the terminal to request member data from the memory device, as shown in blocks 711 and 712. This member data may include information identifying the member. The member data is provided, as shown in block 714 and returned to the terminal 210. The member data may then be stored in the terminal 210, the service device 204, or transmitted to a centralized computer of the second casino. If desired, a message may then be presented on the service device 204, indicating that the member 114 is now also a member of the second incentive program of the second casino.
First, a third transmission is made from the memory device 112 and received in a third terminal 210, as shown in blocks 802 and 804. The third terminal may be any one of the terminals 210 in the first casino, any one of the terminals 210 in the second casino, or a specialized redemption terminal communicatively coupled to a centralized computer of the first casino and or the second casino. As before, the memory device may be optionally authenticated, as shown in blocks 805 and 806. The status (whether the memory device was recognized and/or authenticated) can be displayed by the service device, as shown in block 808.
In block 810, the member requests their incentive. In one embodiment, the incentives provided at the first casino and the second casino are coordinated. That is, the first casino and the second casino have entered an agreement to provide bonuses and incentives to members 114 based not only on the first information stored in the memory device (which information was collected in connection with game play carried out at the first casino), but also based on the second information stored in the memory device (which information was collected in connection with game play carried out at the second casino). In this embodiment, the user can retrieve incentives at one casino that were earned at another.
In another embodiment, the incentives provided at the first casino and the second casino are not coordinated. In this embodiment, the member 114 will be able to retrieve only those incentives based on first information (collected in connection with game play carried out at the first casino) if the third terminal 210 is disposed in or controlled by the first casino, and be able to retrieve only those incentives based on second information (collected in connection with game play carried out at the second casino) if the third terminal is disposed in or controlled by the first casino. In this embodiment, the member 114 can only retrieve incentives that were earned at the same casino at which the game play occurred.
The incentive request is accepted by the service device 204, as shown in block 812. The terminal 210 processes and interprets that request, and commands the memory device 112 to retrieve incentive/bonus information stored therein, as shown in blocks 814. In one embodiment, the memory device 112 acts as a repository for stored bonuses only. In this embodiment, the memory device 112 simply provides the stored first and/or second information regarding game play to the terminal, and the terminal (or service device 204) determines the bonus/incentive. In another embodiment, the memory device 112 determines the bonus by a comparison of the stored first and/or second information and bonus/incentive requirements stored in the memory device 112 as shown in block 815. In either case, using either the incentive information or the comparison between the incentive information and requirements, the memory device 112 sends a message to the terminal 210 indicating whether the incentive should be provided to the member, and the terminal 210 provides a command to the service device 204 indicating that the incentive should be provided. The service device 204 accepts the command and provides the incentive, as shown in blocks 818, 820, and 826. The service device 204 sends a message to the terminal 210 to indicate that the incentive was provided. The terminal 210 commands the memory device 112 to reduce the cumulative bonus for the member stored therein by the amount provided in the incentive in block 820, and the memory device 112 respond to this command. This is illustrated in blocks 822 and 824. If desired, the foregoing process can be altered so that the incentive is not provided until after the bonus is reduced by the incentive amount.
This concludes the description of the preferred embodiments of the present invention. The foregoing description of the preferred embodiment of the invention has been presented for the purposes of illustration and description. It is not intended to be exhaustive or to limit the invention to the precise form disclosed. Many modifications and variations are possible in light of the above teaching. It is intended that the scope of the invention be limited not by this detailed description, but rather by the claims appended hereto. The above specification, examples and data provide a complete description of the manufacture and use of the composition of the invention. Since many embodiments of the invention can be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention, the invention resides in the claims hereinafter appended.
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|Cooperative Classification||G07F17/3239, A63F13/12|
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